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IMPLEMENTING NATIONAL POLICY AND LOCAL PLANNING - Swedish wind power development and third generation mobile phone system as cases

Publiceringsår: 2009
Språk: Engelska
Dokumenttyp: Konferensbidrag


The paper analyses the permit process for Swedish wind power development in terms of two paradigms of spatial planning and environmental management, and makes a comparison with the Swedish 3G mobile phone infrastructure development. Swedish Parliament has set a goal of 10 TWh annually wind electricity for 2015, and the Swedish Energy Agency has proposed 30 TWh from wind power by 2020. The present 900 windmills would have to increase to between 3000 and 6000. A government commission has examined the possibilities of making the permit processes more efficient to allow for rapid development. A proposal has recently been published. It has been criticised for letting environmental permit procedures replace local planning as the instrument of spatial planning of development. So, on one hand there is a national drive to increase the speed of wind power development, where legal changes is one measure taken, and on the other there is a strong tradition of local dominance in the spatial planning system.

Swedish wind power deployment – like the 3G infrastructure – is mainly governed by two sets of legislations with different histories and partly different purposes, the Planning and Building Act (PBA), and the Environmental Code. At present windmills require a building permit and in the case of a wind farm a municipal detailed development plan in accordance with the PBA. Under the Environmental Code larger generators require a permit and smaller ones need to be registered. The PBA processes are municipal whereas the environmental come under the County Administration or the Environmental Court.

These two sets of legislation can be seen as expressions of two competing paradigms of environmental governance, the planning paradigm and the environmentalist paradigm for short. They are theoretical constructions based in an analysis of professional cultures of planning and environmental management. They were used also in the analysis of the Swedish 3G development. 3G was developed between 2000 and 2007, with four licence winning operators supposed to build competing systems each covering more than 99,98 percent of the population by 2003. The coverage at that time was substantially lower and the municipal permit handling was blamed and it was considered that this “could not have been foreseen”, helping operators avoid sanctions for breach of licensing conditions. It has been shown that a slow municipal permit process can not explain the lack of coverage.

Development of wind power as well as of the 3G infrastructure in Sweden are interesting fields of conflict between national goals for technological development and local spatial planning and governance of land use. They are also instances of the legislative and paradigmatic struggle of the PBA and the Environmental Code. We examine the implications of the attempts to simplify permit processes as an element in this struggle.

The paper is based on a study which includes the legal design as well as interviews with key figures in the Swedish wind power development and a study of the 3G development within the research programme “Tools for environmental assessment, MiSt”.


  • Law and Society


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